William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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OH, I'M JUST SO EXCITED, AREN'T YOU? – AT 8:54 A.M. ET:  Clear your calendars.  Get ready.  We're about to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program...again. 

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Iran has agreed to hold talks with six major powers about its atomic program in January but the date and venue has yet to be decided, the country's top nuclear negotiator said on Friday.

The six powers want to rein in Iran's uranium enrichment program to ensure it is geared only for civilian energy, through a mix of diplomacy and sanctions. Iran denies Western assertions it is seeking nuclear weapons capability.

"We have accepted that these talks should be held in January, but until now, the details have not been finalized," Jalili said through a translator during a trip to India.

The six powers - the United States, Russia, France, Britain, Germany and China - have failed to achieve a breakthrough in three rounds of talks since April. But neither side has been willing to break off totally, partly because of concern this could lead to war if Israel attacked its arch-foe. 

COMMENT:  Look, Iran isn't giving up its nuclear-weapons program.  But they could artfully fake it, or make changes leading to more and more talks, giving them more time.  Obama has said that he won't allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon, but he's been vague about how he defines that and exactly what he would do to stop it.

My great fear is that we'll have a Chamberlain moment, where we agree to some process that is full of holes, just to avoid doing anything serious.  My fear will increase if Chuck Hagel gets to be secretary of defense.  Hagel seems to be instinctively opposed to any strong action against Iran, although now that he wants the job he seems to be "modifying" his position.  Never trust a modifier. 

Iran still remains the number one foreign threat facing the U.S. in the immediate future, although I wouldn't ignore a resurgent Russia.

January 4, 2013